Pumpkin art: Working the blank canvas

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The mission was vital and a little bit dangerous. We needed pumpkins carved in the most intricate and unique manner, employing a variety of styles and approaches. And we needed them fast — by Halloween.

Who you gonna call?

We called on specialists, an elite group of nine “artists” from diverse backgrounds. A jeweler. A stained-glass expert and a performance artist. Two floral designers and a surgeon. That’s right, a surgeon. When a task calls for delicacy, who better to wield the blade?

Our team started with nine plump pumpkins donated by Bell Farms in Auburn. The rules were simple: There are no rules. These masters of their crafts were told only to have fun. To incorporate ideas from their area of expertise. To not poke out their own eyes while going about it.

The possibilities were unlimited. We expected to lose a few of our volunteers along the way, but in the end, they all came through. The results were shocking — mind-blowing pumpkin art from the warped imaginations of our creative geniuses.

Some put their own devilish spin on the traditional: Spiders. A black cat. Others thought outside the gourd, delivering to us slashed pumpkin flesh in the form of internal organs, a miniature theater stage, a triumphant carver frozen in celebration, a secret glimpse into the romantic side of the pumpkin.

We said our team was elite. We never claimed they were sane.

Name: Katie Gay

Age: 30

City: Monmouth

Job: Floral designer at Blais Flowers and Garden Center

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Flowers.

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: Last year.

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: I wanted to do something with scary flowers on front, and spiders. I used hot pink and orange as color.

Name: Lily Doyon

Age: 49

City: Lewiston

Job: Floral designer at Blais Flowers and Garden Center

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Flowers. Stained glass.

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: A few years

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: I wanted to do something with golds. Then thought of Cinderella’s coach. I used lilies and roses in the arrangement.

Name: Casey Turner

Age: 23

City: Buckfield

Job(s): Theater manager of the Oddfellow Theater

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Acting

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: Three years

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: We’re all about thinking outside the box at the Oddfellow Theater, so I didn’t want to carve something into my pumpkin — I wanted to turn my pumpkin into something. Naturally, a theater appeared. The challenge was trying to figure out what to put on the small stage. Lacking the artistic ability to carve any iconic Oddfellow Theater characters, I tried to represent the theater in the simplest way.

Name: Jim Nutting

Age: 56

City: Lisbon Falls

Job(s): Stained glass artist, co-owner of Maine Art Glass Studio

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Glass

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: one year

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: The pumpkin that I originally carved was embedded with many small pieces of colored glass, creating a face. It melted, so I created a second design inspired by my butterfly and insect museum.

Other information: Maine Art Glass Studio (maineartglass.com) on Main Street in Lisbon Falls also features a butterfly and insect museum, featuring thousands of specimens from around the world.

Name: Michael David Dostie

Age: 28

City: Lewiston

Job(s): J. Dostie Jewelers (visual merchandising, jewelry fabrication)

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Jewelry — yellow gold, sterling silver or wax; jewelery displays — everything.

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: I carved a jack-o-lantern about a year ago.

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin:

Even the things

That go bump in the night

Can have feelings too

Like love at first fright.

The carving was done with a steak knife and a paring knife, and the three pumpkins took about 2.5 hours to do. The legs and arms are just sticks hot glued together then spray painted (this took about two hours). I think including buying the pumpkins, this window cost around $10 to $12.

Name: Stephanie Berry 

Age: Ha-ha

City: Durham    

Job(s): Receptionist

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Oils

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: Probably close to 50 years!!

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: I ended up with a “trial” pumpkin as I worked out what I wanted to do before I did the final one. I am always inspired by flowers, and gardens, which is reflected in so many of my paintings and the pumpkin, of course (see Gallery 5’s current exhibit). I used a keyhole saw, a drill and some very old linoleum cutting tools from my art school days. I probably ended up spending close to three hours or so creating the final pumpkin.

Other information: I have a blog where I try to post at least once a week my recent paintings. http://stephanieberryart.blogspot.com 

Name: Kate Cargile Myrand

Age: 36

City: Lewiston

Job(s): Art teacher, Lewiston Middle School

Art medium(s) you typically work in: Oil and acrylic paint; applique quilting, block and intaglio printmaking, paper mache

How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: Last year my husband and I created paper mache jack-o’-lanterns and spooky cats. We carved one pumpkin and we displayed them all together for the trick-or-treaters.

Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: I tried to model my pumpkin after our spook-kitten, Polliwog. I painted the pumpkin with black acrylic paint before I carved it in the traditional fashion — kitchen knife, spoon, bowl, pumpkin goo, etc. Then I used wood carving tools to carve out the texture lines and details of the face. The whiskers are off of our broom. It was a really messy process — pumpkins are very moist, so the acrylic paint wouldn’t dry properly. I prefer to work in paper mache, though the toasted pumpkin seeds I got out of the process were yummy!

Name: Jamie Loggins
 
Age: 30-40 something  🙂
 
City: Auburn
 
Job(s): Surgeon, minimally invasive and bariatric surgery medical director, Central Maine Bariatric Surgery chief of surgery, Central Maine Medical Center
 
Art medium(s) you typically work in: Christmas lights. (Visit www.auburnlights.com if you don’t know what that means.)
 
How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: Years!
 
Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: In keeping with the theme of creating a pumpkin carving related to my profession, as well as the fun spirit of the Halloween holiday (one of my favorites), I got the idea of using a multiple pumpkin design to have some fun with anatomy. I’m no great artist, but I sketched a simple and hopefully recognizable anatomic design onto our unfortunate pumpkin patient.

Because of the free-floating nature of our pumpkin’s “organs,” I couldn’t simply carve the shapes all the way through like you might normally do, so I used a rotary power tool to “whittle” the shapes into the wall of the pumpkin, leaving enough flesh to hold everything together but still allowing enough light through. It was fun watching it slowly come together.

Extra credit if you can name at least seven organs represented.  🙂
      
Other information: Be sure to bring your little ghosts trick-or-treating on Vista Drive in Auburn to see this pumpkin, and other surprises, in person.

Name: Matthew Peinado
 
Age: 38
 
City: Auburn
 
Job(s): Auburn public schools and Central Maine Community College
 
Art medium(s) you typically work in: Painting in acrylic
 
How long since you’ve carved/decorated a pumpkin: I carve a pumpkin for the family every year
 
Tell us about what you did to your pumpkin: I knew initially that I wanted to do something different. I have seen some terrific carvings done on pumpkins and wanted to think outside of the box.

The idea came to me when I thought that decorating a pumpkin might be more interesting. I came up with the idea of creating a character that would be the “carver.” I imagined a small fairylike creature would climb up the pumpkin and carve it while everyone was sleeping. The image I tried to capture would freeze the character during his triumphant call as he finished carving the last piece.

So, I first had to figure out the body placement of the character. After some sketching and research I knew which pose I wanted. I then posed, and photos were taken of me in various poses and positions. The pictures were put on the computer and altered. Each body part was digitally sliced up and altered once again.

Finally images were printed and mounted to a board. The board was cut out and glued together to achieve the perfect pose. The character was born. I know had to position the character on the pumpkin and make alterations and additions based upon the image I saw in my mind.

I had fun finalizing the character by adding a top hat, chains and a piece of the carved pumpkin. The actual carving of the pumpkin happened at the end of the art-making process. Even though the character is not animated, the scene does capture the moment of triumph as I initially pictured it.

Even the things / That go bump in the night / Can have feelings too / Like love at first fright.

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